Daniel Libeskind has cemented himself as the go-to-guy for memorials. From the iconic Jewish Museum in Berlin and Imperial War Museum North to the lesser-known Danish Jewish Museum and Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Memorial in Columbus, Libeskind has been conjuring up a host of emotionally-charged projects.
The latest manifestation of this memorial mastery is his victory in the competition to design Canada’s National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa. The design calls for six triangular, concrete figures arranged to form the Star of David, which was the symbol that Jews persecuted under Nazi rule were forced to wear. It has at its core the same symbols as his monuments in Berlin and Columbus, the figure of a six-pointed star that is rich with reference, but treated differently in each project, as Libeskind's work has evolved and transformed with the times.
Image via www.ctvnews.ca
The Jewish Museum in Berlin took the symbol and completely abstracted it, beyond the point of recognition. The deconstruction was a formal gesture that could not be read in the final building outside of its form.
The simple extrusion in plan made the building sensible, but erased the Star of David reference from the imagination of the visitor. The building is indicative of the abstraction craze that Libeskind grew out of in the late 1980s and early 1990s, that extended through the early part of the oughts.
Image via www.architektura.pb.edu.pl
The Columbus monument, and to a lesser extent, the new Canadian design, reaches the other extreme, which is to leave the star untouched, essentially, and simply carve out a void. While the Columbus design has the signature fissures and angles of most of Libeskind's work, the image of the star is left oddly intact. The Canadian design looks to convey the message of the star in plan, and in aerial photographs and renderings can be read legibly, breaking from the Berlin museum's past. The newest design was also part of a huge, high-profile competition that included David Adjaye.
Image courtesy Studio Daniel Libeskind.
These two most recent designs are indicative of a recent liberalization of attitudes about abstraction. There has been somewhat of a suffrage movement that has eased the puritanical Quakerism that many of the profession's elders like to guard. Perhaps even Libeskind is trending #figural?